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GAME DAY: vs. Buffalo

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Buffalo Sabres
RECORDS - CBJ: 5-13-3 (Home: 4-6-1), BUF: 12-8-1 (Road: 7-2-0)
WHEN: Nov. 25, 2011 - 7 p.m.   |   WHERE: Nationwide Arena
FOX Sports Ohio (HD)  |  LISTEN: CD102.5 FM &

One month ago, the Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres met for the first of two this season at First Niagara Center in upstate New York (4-2 win for BUF). At the time, Columbus was not playing its best hockey of the young season, but was close to finding its game. Games between these two clubs have come to be known as physical, high-octane tussles and have created a cross-conference rivalry.

The Blue Jackets remained tied 2-2 with the Sabres until late in the third period on Oct. 27 before Patrick Kaleta broke the tie with just over six minutes to play. His rebound goal was the eventual game-winner in a contest the Blue Jackets had every chance to win, or at the very least, get to overtime. There will be a redemption factor to tonight’s game as the Blue Jackets have picked up their game of late, coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils at Prudential Center two nights ago.

What’s changed since they last met? For Columbus, the wins have been a bit more plentiful (4-6-2 since) and they are getting solid goaltending from veteran Curtis Sanford. The Blue Jackets special teams units have come to life and the power play looks like a weapon with Jeff Carter healthy and James Wisniewski getting back in the swing of things after his suspension. Carter has three goals in his last three games and adds a different, more dynamic dimension to the club’s top line.

On the Sabres side, they are coming off an emotional 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. The controversial incident involving Milan Lucic and Ryan Miller definitely added emotion to the already-hostile divisional matchup, and it has been all the talk around the NHL since it happened a week ago. Miller is currently out of the Buffalo lineup with concussion-like symptoms, but the team’s play has not stalled a bit. Backup Jhonas Enroth has stepped in and played outstanding hockey for head coach Lindy Ruff’s team, going 7-2-1 with a shutout in 12 appearances.

Buffalo is also a tough road team; the Sabres have the most road wins (7) in the NHL and have won two straight away from First Niagara Center. They are also 4-1-0 against teams from the Western Conference.

One notable absence for the Sabres is defenseman Tyler Myers, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after a wrist injury sustained about a week ago. Buffalo did get veteran winger Jochen Hecht back in the lineup against the Bruins but are still without skilled forward Tyler Ennis.

Prospal (6) Vanek (12)
Prospal (13) Pominville (16)
Prospal (19) Vanek (25)
Dorsett (62) Kaleta (34)
MacKenzie (+3) Gerbe (+6)
Sanford (2-0-2)
Hedberg (7-2-1)
Sanford (1.33) Hedberg (2.13)
Sanford (.946) Hedberg (.930)
• Columbus won back-to-back games Nov. 19-21 for the first time since winning three-straight Feb. 18-25, 2011, a span of 42 games. The Jackets now have points in four-straight games, and five of six, after Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss at New Jersey. After opening the season 2-12-1 the first 15 games overall, the club is now 3-1-2 in its last six games.

• Tonight marks the second of two meetings overall and lone meeting at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Sabres. Columbus is 7-5-1 all-time against Buffalo, including a 3-1-1 mark at Nationwide Arena.

• LW Vinny Prospal is expected to play the 1,000th game of his NHL career tonight against the Sabres. He will become the 268th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 or more games. He has collected 233-466-699 in 999 career games with Philadelphia, Ottawa, Florida, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, NY Rangers and Columbus. He enters tonight’s game with points in 14 of 21 games this season, including points in three-straight (1-3-4).

• Columbus ranks 24th (tied) in the NHL in power play percentage (13.8 percent). The club has scored with the man advantage in 11-of-21 games. The Jackets have scored two or more power play goals in a game twice this season. Prospal, Mark Letestu and Rick Nash lead the team with two power play goals each.

• A total of 20 players have scored at least one goal for Columbus, the most in the NHL.

Nathan Gerbe

LW  -  #42
  3 Goals
  8 Assists
  11 Points

• Gerbe might be better known as one of the shortest players in the NHL (5-foot-5), but his scoring touch displayed both in college and now at the professional level cannot be ignored. He scored 60 goals over his final two seasons at Boston College and was a 2008 Hobey Baker Award finalist. Gerbe followed that up with a 30-goal rookie season with Portland (AHL).

• His scoring success usually led to team success last year; the Sabres were 10-1-2 in games that Gerbe scored a goal and 5-1-0 when he had a multi-point game.

LW Kristian Huselius (upper body); indefinitely
D Radek Martinek (concussion); indefinitely
G Steve Mason (upper body); day-to-day

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